OK. This isn’t about fish. It’s about a cat named Boris and maybe some other stuff, too.
A little known and useless fact about me is my over-the-top love of animals wild or domestic. Dogs, cats, raccoons, squirrels, chipmunks and up the food chain, it doesn’t matter. The ones that really get me are the large, wild predators: raptors, wolves, coyotes, bear, and, of course wild cats of all sorts. There’s not a one of them I wouldn’t call-out in my best, non-threatening falsetto, “Here little wolfy, wolfy. Look what I got for you!”
So, when I discovered my friend Rob Carmichael, the curator of the incredible Wildlife Discovery Center, had managed to adopt a bobcat I was on the phone pleading for a chance to meet the critter. Rob is all about introducing the public to the wonders of the wild animals of our world, near and far. We made a date for a cold, snowy day. I showed-up with treats and a toy, having little idea what appeals to a wild cat. Rob comes into the cage with me, I suppose to referee the whole affair. He introduces me to Boris the Bobcat. Bobcats are part of the Lynx family. His tail is short and his ears are tufted. Really, a beautiful animal and very reminiscent of a domestic cat except two or three times the size. The moments slipped away too fast and it was time to go. Funny thing, it kind of broke my heart. I wanted to hang around, play with the furry-fellow until the snow melted in the spring.
I guess I wasn’t so subtle about asking if I could care for the big hair-ball. At the time, Rob had it covered. I think, secretly, Rob was spending his free time playing with Boris. Heck! That’s what I’d do!
Anyway, fast forward a couple of years. Rob’s life has become more and more complicated. The Wildlife Discovery Center has never been busier and it’s an all-volunteer organization, save for Rob and his organizational guru, Sandy Kooper. One day I get an email from Rob asking if I’d be interested in caring for Boris. WOW! Sure would!
I’m guessing this is complex work. I wonder how long the training period is. I’ve been looking after animals of one sort or another, my whole life but, this is different, right? I show-up on a cold winter day. Rob explains the protocol for entering and exiting the cage. He grabs a thawed rat from the fridge and off we go. “This is the key to his cage. Here’re the garbage bags to pick-up the poop and make sure he has water. Any questions? No? Let me know if you have any problems.” That’s it? Well…OK!!
I’d been given the keys to the kingdom. It doesn’t get any better than this. Man! I’d pay HIM to look after Boris and I get to do it free!! What a deal!!
It’s been seven months since Boris and I became acquainted. I’ve learned a lot about Boris and about wild animals, in general, which I’ll share with you in future installments. I’ve learned a lot about myself, too. I’m a natural zoo keep. I always figured everybody has natural inclinations to animals and the only difference between me and everyone else is I’m a bit more talkative about it. For better or for worse (and there are definitely some downsides to the way I am), that’s not the case. I wouldn’t call what I’ve got a “calling”, but you get the idea. I guess you’d say I’m an animal behaviorist – I look for meaning in an animal’s behavior. And, I’m oddly good at it. I haven’t yet been accused of anthropomorphism, RIGHT TO MY FACE. But, look it up in the dictionary and decide for yourself. Wild animals like Boris aren’t people. But, if you look real closely you recognize common behaviors. And, why not? Take the critter and stick him on two legs instead of four, put a pair of spectacles on him and then see what you think. Looks a little more familiar?
I was planning on leaving this for later, but may as well lay it out now. Boris will do anything for a piece of cheese. “No cheese? Sorry Steve, I’m too tired.” But, Steve’s not that dumb. Boris is a cat and cats like to play. Wave something in front of him and he’s bound to take a swipe at it, cheese or no cheese. Why is that? That’s the question for you: Why? And, what does it say about Boris the Bobcat, Steve the Human and You the Reader?